A Different Coach, A Different Attitude...
Ever since Penn's Dick Harter took the air out of the ball and beat a Top 10 Villanova team 32-30 on a Dave Bilsky jumper with 0:01, every Division 1 coach has understood (on some level) that when overmatched with an opponent, cutting down on possessions can increase chances to win, and Oliver Purnell, DePaul's very capable first year coach knew coming into this game that playing for the Blue Demon's "normal" 68 possessions would spell disaster. DePaul and Villanova took their time, 45 minutes and 73 possessions to be exact, to decide that Villanova, by a 77-75 margin, would emerge the winner. But make no mistake, the Demon coach took the air out of the ball to slow down the Wildcats, employed his Diamond Press to put 94 feet of pressure to force turnovers and gave a big green light to his perimeter shooters. The best he could tease from the strategy was a 40 minute stand off, and a two possession deficit after playing 44 minutes and 53 seconds.
The Athletic Department website posted the official boxscore and the AP wire story, "No. 15 Villanova Edges DePaul in Overtime, 77-75", lead with Corey Fisher's 34 point outburst, DePaul's resurgence in the last 2-3 games and Jeremiah Kelly's offensive output. The breakdown by halves...
Keys to Winning
30 possessions in the first half projected to another 60 possesion game, an emerging pattern for Villanova games lately. Scoring 0.78 points per possession with an abysmal 35.0% shot conversion rate for a first half should translate into a hole so deep even a good offensive turnaround in the second half would not be enough to overcome...but DePaul's 0.88 points per possession first half meant Villanova's hole was not so deep after all. The improved offenisve production in the second half and overtime period were enough to overcome improved offensive numbers for DePaul.
Coach Purnell's Diamond Press caused problems in the first half, forcing a 22% turnover rate for Villanova in the first half. Credit half time adjustments which allowed the Wildcats to break the press enough to convince Coach Purnell to abandon it through large stretches of the second half and overtime. And Villanova's front court dominated the boards at both ends of the floor. DePaul is not a strong rebounding squad, but Villanova beat DePaul's numbers rather handily.
The Wildcats' tempo continues to decline. The plethora of zone defenses, coupled in this case with a 94 foot press, translated into a 63 possession game in regulation play. For the fifth consecutive game Villanova has played for fewer than the conference average of 65.4 possessions in regulation play. For the regulation game, the 'Cats came in at 63.0 possessions, below their own conference average of 64.8 possessions -- expect it to decline yet again. The teams were on track for a 60 possession game going into the half, but consistent with previous games, the pace increased in the second half. With their possession-to-points conversion rate, had the second half gone for another two possessions, the Wildcats would have won without need for an overtime. 10 possessions in five minutes, the pace at which the overtime period was played, was unusually high. Projected over a 20 minute half, the teams would have played for 40 possessions, way, way high fir either team. Blame the fatigue.
Corey Fisher scored 34 points on 11-18 (5-8, 6-10) shooting from the field, combined with 7-9 from the line. Corey's numbers compute to an eFG% of 75.0%, an outstanding combination of volume shooting and efficient shot conversion. His PPWS was 1.52, will definitely turn heads next week.
Noted here and there, but not widely, was Mouphtaou Yarou's double-double -- 12 points on 5-12 (0-0, 5-12) and 2-4 from the line shooting and 15 rebounds. For Yarou, this was more a case of volume shooting to overcome a less effective (41.7%) shot conversion rate.
Records, Next Up...
Villanova's records stand at 21-6 overall and 9-5 in conference play. The Wildcats have to run a four game gauntlet consisting of Syracuse (H) and St. John's (H) before taking to a road that leads through Notre Dame (A) and Pittsburgh (A) to finish out the regular season. The Blue Demons' records stand at 7-19 and 1-13 in conference play. DePaul will visit St. John's, come home to host South Florida and Rutgers, before closing out the season at Syracuse.
Corey Stokes did not play, but will, according to Terry Toohey's post over at the Toohey on Colleges blog, the Villanova guard will be available off the bench should his pregame warmups go well and the need arise.